Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Animal / Dog Law
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Defendant Kevin Butler was convicted after a bench trial on two counts of animal cruelty. One of defendant’s neighbors was leaving her apartment to run errands when she noticed a dog inside a parked Honda Civic. After 45 minutes to an hour, the neighbor returned and noticed that the dog remained in the vehicle. The dog appeared to be in distress and was “scratching at the windows and the door.” The temperature was greater than 90 degrees outside and the neighbor believed that the “dog shouldn’t have been in the car because it was that hot with all the windows . . . closed.” She was “afraid for the dog,” so she called the police. Animal Control responded to the call, opened the vehicle, and secured the dog. Defendant testified telling a responding officer that on the day the dog was taken into custody, he had “been out on some errands” and “[h]is arms were full[,] so [he] asked his 8-year-old son . . . to bring the dog in.” When the police asked him where his dog was, the defendant testified that he said “oh, sh*t” and asked his son where the dog was. When his son responded that he did not know, the defendant realized that the dog must still be in the car. On appeal, defendant claimed the evidence was insufficient to establish the requisite mens rea of criminal negligence for both charges. All other elements were uncontested. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed defendant's conviction. View "New Hampshire v. Butler" on Justia Law

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Greenbank purchased “Thomas” for $500,000, for use as a competitive showhorse. Greenbank obtained insurance from GA that included coverage for Thomas’s “death” or “authorized humane destruction.” In February 2018, Thomas became sick. Over the next few months, Thomas lost 50 pounds and developed cellulitis in all four legs and uveitis in his eye. In April 2018, Greenbank reported Thomas’s pneumonia to GA. Greenbank's veterinarian informed GA that Thomas “probably” needed to be euthanized. GA retained its own veterinarians. Thomas was transported to its facility, where Dr. MacGillivray advised that it would not be unreasonable to make a euthanasia recommendation but she wanted to try treatment. Greenbank objected, arguing that treatment would destroy Thomas’s future athleticism. After his surgery, Thomas made a "remarkable" recovery. Thomas is still doing well.GA denied coverage for certain treatments and rejected Greenbank’s renewal payment of $14,725.000, citing her failure to provide immediate notice of Thomas’s illness in February 2018. Greenbank argued that GA acted in bad faith by unreasonably withholding consent for authorized humane destruction and that GA’s continued care and control over Thomas after the policy terminated constituted conversion and theft.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her claims. Thomas saw three veterinarians in five months; no veterinarian certified that Thomas needed to be euthanized. Nothing in the contract requires GA to protect Thomas’s use as a show horse. Greenbank never made an unqualified demand for Thomas’s return nor did she establish that any demand would have been futile. View "Greenbank v. Great American Assurance Co." on Justia Law

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In September 2017, Klamath County Animal Control impounded 22 dogs, three horses, and seven chickens from Petitioner Kenneth Hershey’s property. The state subsequently charged Hershey with three counts of second-degree animal neglect, one count for each type of animal. under ORS 167.347. As relevant here, that statute provides that, when an animal is being held by an animal care agency pending the outcome of a criminal action for mistreatment of the animal, a district attorney, acting on behalf of the animal care agency, may file a petition in the criminal action asking the circuit court to order the forfeiture of the animal unless the defendant in the criminal action (or another person with a claim to the animal) pays a security deposit or bond to cover the agency’s costs of caring for the animal. The question presented for the Oregon Supreme Court by this case was whether, under Article I, section 17, of the Oregon Constitution, a party has a right to a jury trial in a proceeding brought under ORS 167.347. The circuit court ruled that a party did not have such a right. The Court of Appeals affirmed, in a divided opinion. The Supreme Court concurred with the lower court decisions and affirmed. View "Oregon v. Hershey" on Justia Law

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The Seventh District remanded this case brought under the Endangered Species Act's citizen-suit provision, 16 U.S.C. 1540(g)(1), for mistreatment of endangered and threatened animals at a Wisconsin private zoo for an award of reasonable attorney fees and costs, holding that the district court's stated reasons were insufficient to deny statutorily-recoverable expenses.The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sued Special Memories Zoo and its owners and manager (collectively, Defendants) alleging that the conditions of the endangered and threatened animals' confinement constituted an unlawful "take" under the Act. Defendants first defended the action then intentionally defaulted. After the trial court entered default judgment for ALDF ALDF moved for an award of attorney's fees and costs under 16 U.S.C. 1540(g)(4). The trial court denied the motion. The Seventh District vacated the decision below, holding that the court's reasons were insufficient to justify denying fees when weighed against the purpose and structure of the Act. View "Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Special Memories Zoo LLC" on Justia Law

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Appellant made a series of Freedom of Information Act request seeking records related to the animal rights movement. During five years of litigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) produced tens of thousands of pages of responsive documents. The district court found that the FBI had adequately searched for responsive records and granted summary judgment in its favor. The FOIA requester now challenges the adequacy of the search for electronic surveillance records, as well as several of the district court’s interlocutory rulings.   The DC Circuit explained that because it agrees with the district court that the FBI’s search was largely adequate, it affirmed in most respects. It remanded, however, for the Bureau to provide a more detailed explanation of its search for electronic surveillance records related to individuals mentioned in but not party to monitored conversations.   The court explained that despite the FBI’s good-faith effort to process the voluminous requests, it agrees with Appellant that its declarations inadequately address one class of records: those related to individuals mentioned in monitored communications but not directly targeted for surveillance. According to its declarations, the FBI’s electronic surveillance indices include “the names of all individuals whose voices have been monitored,” but for many years field offices have not been “required to forward to [FBI headquarters] the names of all individuals mentioned during monitored conversations.” Thus, a limited remand is appropriate for the FBI to fill this gap in its declarations. View "Ryan Shapiro v. DOJ" on Justia Law

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The Hopkinses kept cattle on their Marshall County, Tennessee farm. Detective Nichols received a complaint about the treatment of those cattle, drove by, and observed one dead cow and others that did not appear to be in good health. Nichols returned with Tennessee Department of Agriculture Veterinarian Johnson. Wearing his gun and badge, Nichols knocked and. according to Mrs. Hopkins, “demanded that [she] escort them to see the cattle,” refusing to wait until Mr. Hopkins returned or until she fed her children. Johnson completed a Livestock Welfare Examination, as required by law, noting that the cattle were not in reasonable health, that they lacked access to appropriate water, food, or shelter, and that major disease issues were present; she determined that probable cause for animal cruelty existed. Nichols returned to the Hopkins’s farm several times and discovered a sinkhole containing the remains of multiple cattle. Nichols and Sheriff Lamb eventually seized the cattle without a warrant and initiated criminal proceedings. The cattle were sold.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion for qualified immunity in a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Forced compliance with orders is a Fourth Amendment seizure; words that compel compliance with orders to exit a house constitute a seizure. While the open fields doctrine allowed the officers to lawfully search the farm, it did not give them lawful access to seize the cattle; they lacked exigent circumstances when they seized the cattle. View "Hopkins v. Nichols" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the courts below granting a motion to dismiss Nonhuman Rights Project's petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking to secure the transfer of Happy, an elephant residing at the Bronx Zoo, to an elephant sanctuary, holding that the lower courts properly granted the motion to dismiss the habeas petition.Petitioner Nonhuman Rights Project, a not-for-profit corporation, commenced this habeas proceeding on behalf of Happy, arguing that Happy was a cognitively complex and autonomous nonhuman animal that should be "recognized as a legal person with the right to bodily liberty protected by the common law" and immediately released from "unlawful imprisonment" at the Zoo. Supreme Court dismissed the petition. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that "the writ of habeas corpus is limited to human beings." The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that nonhuman animals are not persons with a common law right to liberty that may be secured through a writ of habeas corpus. View "Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Breheny" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Ann Samolyk sustained neurological and cognitive injuries when she entered a lagoon in Forked River to rescue her neighbors’ dog, which had fallen or jumped into the water. Samolyk’s husband filed a civil action against defendants, alleging they were liable under the rescue doctrine by negligently allowing their dog to fall or jump into the water, prompting Samolyk to attempt to save the dog. Neither the Law Division nor the Appellate Division found the doctrine applicable. The issue presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's review reduced to whether the common law rescue doctrine could be expanded to permit plaintiffs to recover damages for injuries sustained as a proximate result of attempting to rescue defendants’ dog. After reviewing the "noble principles that infuse the public policy underpinning this cause of action," the Supreme Court declined to consider property, in whatever form, to be equally entitled to the unique value and protection bestowed on a human life. The Court nevertheless expanded the rescue doctrine to include acts that appear to be intended to protect property but were in fact reasonable measures ultimately intended to protect a human life. Judgment was affirmed. View "Samolyk v. Berthe" on Justia Law

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In this claim brought by an organization dedicated to ocean preservation against the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the DC Circuit affirmed the judgment of the trial court in favor of the government defendants. In doing so, the court rejected both of the organization's claims that the National Marine Fisheries Service failed to provide sufficient protection for the dusky shark.The court held that the National Marine Fisheries Service did not violate the Magnuson-Stevens Act by failing to actually limit bycatch of the overfished dusky shark or hold fisheries accountable to any level of dusky shark bycatch. Nor did the national Marine Fisheries Service violate the Magnuson-Stevens Act by failing to establish a reasonable likelihood that training measures, communication protocols, and minor gear changes would reduce dusky shark bycatch by 35 percent, which is the minimum reduction needed to meet the statutory requirement to rebuild the dusky shark population. View "Oceana, Inc. v. Gina Raimondo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of organizations devoted to animal welfare and individuals who work with those organizations and with marine mammals, sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) and its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”), seeking to enforce conditions in permits held by SeaWorld, a business operating several marine zoological parks. The permits authorize the capture and display of orcas and require display facilities to transmit medical and necropsy data to the NMFS following the death of an animal displayed under the terms of a permit. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ suit for lack of standing.   The D.C. Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The court reasoned that to establish standing, a plaintiff “must show (1) an injury in fact that is concrete and particularized and actual or imminent; (2) that the injury is fairly traceable to the defendant’s challenged conduct; and (3) that the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision.” Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v. Feld Ent., Inc., 659 F.3d 13 (D.C. Cir. 2011).   Here, the court found that Plaintiffs failed to allege a favorable decision would lead the NMFS to enforce the permit conditions and thus redress their alleged injury. Their allegation to the contrary relies upon unadorned speculation that the NMFS would choose to enforce the necropsy permit conditions and that SeaWorld would voluntarily send necropsy information to an agency that had not enforced permit conditions in twenty-three years should the court determine that the NMFS retains its discretion to enforce permits it issued prior to 1994. View "Lori Marino v. NOAA" on Justia Law